Phoenix women forced to play out inaugural season in Australia

The Wellington Phoenix have abandoned attempts to play a Liberty A-League Women’s match in New Zealand this season.

The club had envisioned bringing the women home for the final few games of their inaugural campaign, but general manager David Dome concedes that is now impossible with only three matches remaining in their season.

“While we hold hope, albeit small, that there could still be Isuzu Ute A-League Men’s games in New Zealand before the end of the season, given the current border restrictions and impossible isolation requirements on trans-Tasman sports teams, there is no chance of there being a Liberty A-League Women’s match in Aotearoa.”

Dome says it is particularly disappointing after the women broke through for their maiden win against Canberra United last week.

“On Friday night we saw history in the making and something incredibly special – the first ever win by a New Zealand professional women’s football team – and there was no chance that it could have been in New Zealand due to current border restrictions.

“That’s incredibly sad for all of us – the club, the players, supporters and our commercial partners.”

The Wellington Phoenix are calling on Government officials to be more proactive and innovative in their decision making to see if it is possible for the men to return home before the end of the 2021/22 Isuzu UTE A-League season, having spent the best part of two years stranded in Australia.

“Professional sport is a business and like many New Zealand businesses that rely on the free transfer of people, goods and services, and capital across our border we need proactive solutions for the re-opening of borders, not the rigid, no flexibility mindset that currently dominates decision making,” Dome said. 

“No one in sport is asking for special favours but the trans-Tasman competitions like Super Rugby, the NRL, NBL and A-Leagues stimulate the flow of money in the economy, especially in the hospitality and tourism sectors, which have been hit hard by COVID.”

“We need Government officials to proactively work with the private sector, to think laterally to find solutions and start making proactive decisions that are real world based, so we can return live sport with crowds to the benefit of the broader community.”